Best music library program – and, what’s an incipit?

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Sure – use Excel if you want to. No shame in that. But AT LEAST turn on the Auto-Filters. You’ll thank me later.

OR…. use an actual database. Right now I am really happy with Google Fusion tables. I basically took my Excel list, exported it as a .csv file, imported it into Fusion Tables and went from there. It’s amazingly powerful and customizable, and much easier to deal with than a raw MySQL database (which is what I was using for a while).

Whatever program you go with, make it more than a list of stuff.

Too often we think of the library file as a way to store stuff and find it later. While that is true it is MUCH more helpful to think of the library as a ministry and planning resource! Come up with the questions you are often trying to answer when planning, and figure out the best way to represent the answers to those questions in your music library data file.

For example – I often can remember the melody line of a hymn before I can think of the name of the text or the tune. So, it is helpful for me to quantify the melody into a searchable term. “Holy, Holy, Holy” (NICAEA) opens with the following incipit: 113355 (do, do, mi, mi, sol, sol), so I entered that numeric code into an “Incipit” column and can now search for that melody. And, a neat side benefit is that as the database grows and you search it for incipits, you will discover similar melodic contours in hymns that you never ever thought of as being related.

This link will take you to the public version of my Google Fusion Tables database – the subset that contains only hymns. Play with that and search by incipit in your browser. It’s pretty cool.

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5 thoughts on “Best music library program – and, what’s an incipit?

  1. Andrew- you are blowing my mind right now! I’m binge reading your articles and everyone I come away thinking- yes, I need to do that, yes, I need to do that, yes, I need to do that. I know what I’ll be doing this summer as I implement these new ideas. This database looks fantastic and so practical. Also time consuming on the front end to add the incipits and ratings on existing pieces in my data base. Thankful for a church member who put our music into a database shortly after coming to FUMC. It was not in a database prior which was rather insane. Anyway, loving your blog. Thanks for taking the time to talk about these things.

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    1. I was fortunate to have had Eagle Scouts do their projects by entering data, fixing robing and folder storage, and reconciling library files. Once the brunt of the work is in its easier to fine tune it how you want it. And- you can always do it 3-5 pieces at a time.

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